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You Ask, I Answer: Calculating Calories in Deep-Fried Foods

Fried Calamari 500How do you calculate caloric intake from deep fried foods?

For example, if I have french fries, how many calories are from the oil? 

When things are deep fried, there is still oil left behind afterwards, so it’s not as if all of it gets soaked into the food.

– Tony (last name withheld)
Brooklyn, NY

This can get quite complex.

First of all, certain qualities of oil can affect how much of it gets absorbed into a food.

For example, if a food is deep fried in oil that has not reached a high-enough temperature, it will absorb more fat (and taste more greasy.)

Additionally, since oil that is reused and reheated multiple times  chemically breaks down, it can be difficult to get it to a high enough temperature without sacrificing its quality.  A restaurant that reuses its oil will produce deep-fried food that is greasier and, therefore,  higher in calories.

If deep frying is done optimally (unusued oil heated at the right temperature in which food is cooked for a very short period of time), very little oil absorption takes place.

However, once you add breading or starchy coatings to foods (as is the case with pre-frozen, ready-to-fry french fries), fat absorption increases significantly.

Since there are so many variables, this can truly only be figured out in a nutrient laboratory via detailed nutrient profile analysis. 

For what it’s worth, a large order of McDonald’s fries provides  two tablespoons (250 calories’ worth) of added oil.

The best “take-home tip” I can provide here is to always make sure the oil you stir-fry food in is sufficiently  hot (to minimize oil absorption).

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